By Nick Creely
Clubs are well and truly on a recruitment drive in the Dandenong District Cricket Association, with the competition once again looking to be further strengthened next season.
In Turf 1, as they always are, Buckley Ridges are making serious moves on-field and off, with the Bucks still firmly in the premiership window.
Despite the losses of first-class trio Benny Howell, Ian Cockbain and coach Chanaka Welegedera, the Bucks have quickly picked itself up to land three strong recruits.
The Bucks have landed ex-England Under 19 representative and ex-Glamorgan batsman Ben Wright, who will add tremendous class to the top-order.
The 33-year-old is permanently relocating to Melbourne with his Australian wife, and after 89 first-class matches and 75 List A games, will now be one of the DDCA’s most prized signings.
Adding to the signings of Wright, the Bucks have jagged North Dandenong paceman Nimesh Kariyawasam, who snared 22 Turf 1 wickets last season, as well as experienced Berwick batsman and former Casey-South Melbourne player Josh Holden.
The Bucks are also entertaining the prospect of bringing back West Indian all-rounder Jerome Jones who was dominant in his 2019/20 stint with the club, while the Bucks are close to appointing its next coach.
Runners-up Berwick have also been incredibly active, with some star quality departing, but an ex-first-class quick returning and a talent leggie have joined the club.
The Bears have lost Wookey Medal winner and ex-first class all-rounder Ruwantha Kellepotha, who will try his hand at Premier level with Casey-South Melbourne under his former coach Will Carr, Josh Holden is off to Buckley Ridges, while Brendan Rose is returning to Premier Cricket and Cory Bevan is off to Knoxfield.
But the Bears have welcomed back former Tasmanian quick and premiership player Andrew Perrin, who returns to the Cave after winning a premiership with Prahran in Victorian Premier Cricket.
He is expected to give Turf 1 batsmen a tough time with his pace and probing lines after a dominant 2011/12 at DDCA level where he snagged 31 wickets from 13 games. He took 205 wickets at Premier Cricket level as well as 10 wickets at Sheffield Shield level.
Talented leg-spinner Riley Siwes has also signed at the club, joining from Dandenong West where he took 22 wickets in Turf 2 at 11.4 last season, with the emerging gun also with a handful of experience in the lower grades at Dandenong. He made his Turf 1 debut for the Westers against Berwick back in 2016/17, and will help fill the void left by the departure of Kellepotha.
It’s believed there is still plenty happening at the Cave, with another signing potentially in the works.
Down at Strathaird Recreation Reserve, Narre South has lost two quality players in Josh Dowling and champion all-rounder Scott Phillips, but have welcomed back an international gun.
Dowling, the ex-Casey paceman is off to Springvale South while the highly decorated cricketing great Phillips is playing closer to home at the Williamstown Imperials but leaves with an almost unmatched legacy.
Jonty Jenner returns to the Lions after playing two seasons in 2018/19 and 2019/20, where he scored over 1,000 runs with three centuries, with the Jersey international gun a serious inclusion to the club with his attacking and classy middle-order batting.
Turf 1 newcomers Narre Warren are not expected to land a big fish, but will back in its Turf 2 premiership squad to take the next step up, with the Magpies locking away its core group under coach Brett Lewis in positive signs.
Springvale South, meanwhile, are expected to be major players in the off-season and have already landed star Narre South paceman and ex-Premier bowler Josh Dowling, who will form a potent new-ball duo with Matt Wetering.
Despite the losses of all-rounder and ex-skipper Nathan King and Clint Tomlinson that will dent the batting stocks, the Bloods are believed to be well and truly in the gun for a couple of high-profile recruits, with some big announcements expected shortly.
There has also been some strong movement across the Turf 2 competition, with Heinz Southern Districts locking in a new coach in Craig Hookey and some gun recruits.
Hookey comes across from Cranbourne, where he has played 24 first XI games as a top-order batsman. Hookey brings across spinner Jordan Margenberg with him, with the off-spinner jagging 22 wickets last season for the Eagles.
The Cobras have also landed exciting left arm quick and all-rounder Triyan De Silva, with the ex-Victorian under 19 speedster coming across with seven first XI games at Premier Cricket level. De Silva will also captain the Cobras’ Twenty20 side and will excite with his explosive batting and sharp pace.
Parkfield has welcomed back Daniel Ferguson as senior assistant coach who joins Steve Cannon (coach), Shane Doig, Nicholas Jeffery and Shane Cooray as part of the coaching team. Cranbourne has also announced an early off-season signing, with hard-hitting wicketkeeper batsman Matt Collett signing on after seven seasons with Dandenong West in a major boost. Beaconsfield is also believed to have closed in on its new senior coach, with an announcement expected early this week. It’s tipped that a current player will take on the job.
Parkmore Pirates have been busy locking away its core group, but have added batsman Abhinav Bhatia from Coomoora, Dandenong West has appointed Anthony Brannan as coach, while Turf 3 outfit Silverton has welcomed back Dilum Weerarathne from Lilydale, and Coomoora has appointed Andrew O’Meara as coach.